momma made the best baked fish in the world.
dad fed us stories.
momma was the paranoid one.
it was three in the morning, and i had two chapters left,
and i came running to momma with a cut on my finger,
and she put all the knives on top of the fridge.
you were sick when we were kids and
vomited up every pill in existence,
and when i started getting pains in my gut,
all the -fens and -oxides and
all the anti- this and pro- that
were replaced by poultices and
tiger balm and herbal steam.
dad was a fisherman and momma had us.
he kept his boat in an iron house by the docks,
which the sea breeze painted red and yellow and brown.
we played hide-and-seek in the crates
until momma heard news of a kidnapping
on the other side of the country.
then she kept us in the room farthest from the street.
something fell on our roof
in the middle of the night and then
there was a shotgun in momma’s closet.
mrs. jacobson looked at dad from her mailbox
while he was cleaning the gutter and then
there was a handgun in momma’s nightstand.
dad went fishing when it started to drizzle.
when he came home,
without a word to momma,
he told us stories about mermaids
and pirates and krakens
and we drank his words like
they were soda-pop.
when he came home,
momma baked fish and it started to shower.
when the storm outside our bedroom door sent
the windows rattling, your laughter pulled
sunlight between the curtains,
and for a while the howling stopped,
and the oven went cold.
one day it rained so hard water came in through every wall.
we hid on top of our beds while our toys drowned
on the sea-carpet alone. the ceiling was crying for them,
weeping right onto our little heads.
one day we packed the survivors into boxes
furnished with our clothes onto dad’s boat,
and we all left.
momma kept it together for a few weeks
until the ocean became too endless.
momma made the best baked fish but
dad hated fishing.
momma hated the way he told us stories
and the way we loved to eat his words and not her fish;
hated the way he looked at the shoreline,
the skyline, the stars, the clouds,
at everything with a longing and nostalgia
that evaporated when the oven dinged and
he turned to look at her; hated the way he talked
to us, to the salted fish, to the picture frames
when he thought no one could hear;
hated the way he did anything that wasn’t her.
it rained and when it rained it poured and
it was pouring constantly.
we used to hide when it thundered,
when the rain beat iron into rust.
it was something to hide from.
because silence is humid and thick and syrupy and
good for a while until it slides over everything and
drenches you to the core. everything
sweet turns sour and bitter and momma
one day couldn’t handle all the sweetness,
and she flushed all of herself into the sea.